Thursday Reads: The Dark, Depressing Place That Is Trump’s America

July 31, 2017 – A vehicle travels east on Front St. in Bells, TN on Monday afternoon. Bells is one of five small towns that comprises Crockett County, Tennessee.  (Yalonda M. James for Mother Jones)

Good Morning!!

Ever wonder what is it like to be a person of color in a Trump-supporting state? Read some personal testimony at Mother Jones: “We Just Feel Like We Don’t Belong Here Anymore,” by Becca Andrews. Andrews returned to her hometown of Bells, Tennessee to find out.

I remember high-school Madyson Turner as a vibrant young black woman with a sense of humor that could dissipate tension in any room. (Turner’s name has been changed here to protect her privacy.) But when we meet up in a Subway sandwich shop in Alamo, there’s a new weight to her shoulders, and her infectious laugh doesn’t come quite so easily.

When she first began to see reports about the violence in Charlottesville, Turner thought it was a tasteless joke. Then she saw videos of the clash on Saturday, and her phone rang—her boyfriend was calling to check on her and process what was happening. He sounded upset. What he said tore at her: “I would rather the world end instead of us having to keep dealing with this stuff.” What hurt her more was the realization that she agreed with him.

“With the way it’s going now, I’m actually scared that I won’t make it,” she said to me in a text message.

Turner tells me that over the past year, life for her family has changed. She hints that her parents have been in West Tennessee long enough to know which families fought against civil rights “back in the day.” Since Trump’s election, they’ve warned her to steer clear of a list of people that is too long for comfort.

The day after the November presidential election, Turner went with her mother to the store, and they both kept their heads down. “We just feel like we don’t belong here anymore,” she says.

Turner’s mom, who cleans houses in town for a living, went to work a couple of days after that, and her employer, an older white woman, brought up the results of the recent election. The two had talked politics before—Turner’s mom is a Democrat, and her employer is a Republican. “Well, you might as well come and live with me now,” the employer said. “You gonna be mine eventually.”

She called her daughter in tears. Turner immediately got in her car and picked her mother up to bring her home.

Last year before the election, a young woman Turner described as one of her best friends casually mentioned she hoped for a Trump victory so that he might “do away with some of these African American people.” She quickly clarified that she wasn’t referring to Turner’s “type,” but when Turner sharply asked her what she meant, she couldn’t answer. Another friend assured her that it would be okay if Trump won the election because she would convince her parents to purchase Turner’s family as their new slaves. In a place where a few large plantation-style houses remain scattered through the county, the “joke” feels a lot like a threat.

The stories are heartbreaking. Please go read the rest if you haven’t already.

The Guardian reports what happened to an African American woman in Texas: Dashcam video shows police sexually assaulted Texas woman, lawyer says.

Charnesia Corley

The attorney for a black woman subjected to an invasive and lengthy roadside strip search by Texas police has released a dashcam video of the incident that he says shows her treatment was a form of rape.

“When you stick your fingers in somebody without their effective consent, that’s rape in any state that I know of,” said Sam Cammack, an attorney for Charnesia Corley.

Cammack made the video public after two Harris County deputies, Ronaldine Pierre and William Strong, were cleared of official oppression by a grand jury earlier this month. They are still with the sheriff’s department. Cammack wants an independent prosecutor to look into the case; a federal civil rights trial is set for January.

Corley was pulled over for allegedly running a stop sign and failing to use turn signals. In the video, she is made to stand, handcuffed, outside her car while two officers look inside. She is then searched with the rear passenger-side door open, partially obscuring the camera’s view of her body.

Corley is then put on the ground, naked below the waist, and examined for about 11 minutes by a female officer using a flashlight. The incident happened in the parking lot of a Texaco garage in Houston late on a June evening in 2015, when she was a 20-year-old student.

The federal lawsuit against Harris County alleges: “When one of the Deputies tried to insert her fingers into Ms CorTheley’s vagina, Ms Corley protested. At that point, the Deputies forcibly threw Ms Corley to the ground, while she was still handcuffed, pinned her down with her legs spread apart, threatened to break her legs and without consent penetrated her vagina in a purported search for marijuana.”

The Guardian is on the ground in Pennsylvania: ‘Trump’s delivering exactly what they wanted: white male supremacy.’

Leaning over a table stacked with “Resist!” buttons and “Impeach Trump” stickers, Kathy Harrington pointed to the offending spot. “It’s probably still there somewhere,” she said. Harrington, 56, was inviting attendees of the annual Musikfest bash in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to sign up to support progressive causes – and to protest against Donald Trump. And then there was one guy who “just looked at us and spit”, said Sandra Davis, 58, a colleague of Harrington, who pointed out the evidence still evaporating from the pavement.

Kathy Harrington joins fellow political activists during Musikfest in Bethlehem. Mark Makela for the Guardian

“They feel empowered,” Davis said of Trump supporters since the election. “They’re given voice. The louder and the more vulgar, the better.”

Images from the night before of white supremacists carrying torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, were deeply disturbing but not surprising, said another activist, Ginny Atwell.

“I think his core base are the true deplorables,” Atwell, 72, said of Trump. “The white supremacists. He’s delivering exactly what they wanted. White male supremacy.”

Trump is never too busy defending white supremacists to find new ways to reverse things President Obama did. The Washingtonian: Trump Removed the White House’s Capital Bikeshare Station.

As Capital Bikeshare grew bigger and more widespread over the past seven years, there was always one station the vast majority of users could never access: a nine-slot dock inside the White House’s security perimeter. The station, located at 17th Street and State Place, was visible to the eye when it was installed in 2010, but did not appear on any system map, making Capital Bikeshare’s smallest station an unofficial “secret” location.

The spot where the WH Capital bikeshare station used to be.

But on Tuesday, Twitter user Gregory Matlesky passed by the White House and noticed the station not there.

Turns out Matlesky’s intuition was correct. The station was removed earlier this week at the Trump Administration’s request, District Department of Transportation spokesperson Terry Owens tells Washingtonian.

Owens adds that the station was installed in 2010 at the request of the Obama Administration, which had a favorable record with the cycling community. The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery—or TIGER—grant program in the 2009 stimulus act funded bike-infrastructure programs throughout the United States, including the installation of several bike lanes and cycling paths around Washington. Before former President Barack Obama left office in January, his Transportation Department signed off on new regulations redefining traffic as people who move on roads, rather than strictly vehicles—a change considered a coup for cyclists and pedestrians.

Apparently WordPress no longer allows us to post tweets, but I’ve posted the photo Matlesky shared.

Why is Mike Pence ending his Latin American trip three days early? Oliver Willis at Share Blue opines: Pence cuts foreign trip short to rush home as Trump’s presidency collapses.

The latest alarm sign for Trump that his presidency is crumbling was the complete destruction of the advisory councils he had put together months ago. Multiple CEOs pulled out of the group, leading Trump to then impotently declare that he was ending them.

Pence also reiterated his support for Trump’s divisive remarks on the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I stand with the president,” he said, and insisted that Trump “has been clear” on standing against racism. The claim is disconnected from reality, coming less than 24 hours after Trump delivered a full-throated defense of white supremacists, arguing that they were provoked by the “alt-left,” and characterizing pro-confederacy Nazis as “fine people.”

Standing with Trump might not be so good for Pence’s 2020 prospects.

Tony Schwartz, who wrote Trump’s book The Art of the Deal, thinks Trump is going to resign. HuffPost:

Tony Schwartz

Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal co-author Tony Schwartz is predicting that the president is getting ready to call it quits ― and that the resignation will happen soon.

In followup tweets in response to questions, Schwartz predicted Trump would make a deal for immunity in the Russia investigation in exchange for his resignation.

“The Russia stuff will be huge,” he wrote. “He doesn’t want to go to jail.”

He also urged Trump’s opponents to keep up the pressure, and he slammed the president’s elder children.

Read Schwartz’s tweets at HuffPost. I agree with him. Ever since I heard that Pence was rushing back to the U.S. for a meeting at Camp David, I’ve suspected Trump will be pressured to resign. It may not happen right away, but I believe it will happen.

I’ll add more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Amerika

neo-Nazi white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA last night

Good Afternoon!!

White “nationalists” are involved in a violent demonstration in the streets of an American city today. There has so far been no reaction from the “president,” who of course has a number of these crazies working for him in the people’s house.

According to reports on MSNBC, the rally–supposedly a protest of the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee–has now been declared an “unlawful assembly.” Interestingly,there are lots of Confederate flags on display in the crowd, but I have yet to see an American flag. Until recently, there hasn’t been much attempt by police to control the “protesters” either. It’s certainly a different scene from the police crackdowns we have seen at demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter.

Boston.com: Hundreds face off ahead of white nationalist rally.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Hundreds of people are facing off in Charlottesville ahead of a white nationalist rally planned in the Virginia city’s downtown.

Rally supporters and counter-protesters screamed, chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday morning.

Men dressed in militia uniforms were carrying shields and openly carrying long guns.

 

From Twitter earlier today:

NBC News: Protesters Clash at White Nationalists March in Virginia, Local Emergency Declared.

Altercations erupted Saturday morning and at least two people were hurt as white nationalists and counter-protesters violently clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia, where local police and the governor declared a state of emergency.

Supporters of the “Unite the Right” rally descended again on the city’s downtown in opposition to clergy members and other groups, who stood in a line singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” to drown out the profanity and slurs.

“Love has already won. We have already won,” the counter-protesters responded.

But as the violence intensified with shoving and punching, demonstrators covered their mouths after what appeared to be tear gas was released into the crowd.

The city and Albemarle County both issued a “declaration of local emergency” for the two jurisdictions to request additional resources. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe also declared a state of emergency to allow for a response to quell the violence.

The rally hasn’t even started yet, but it has been called off. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next.

Yesterday White House employee Sebastian Gorka defended white supremacists. Think Progress: White House adviser says people should stop criticizing white supremacists so much.

On Wednesday, Gorka lashed out at “at [New York Times reporter] Maggie Haberman and her acolytes in the fake news media, who immediately have a conniption fit” and brought up McVeigh. He added that “white men” and “white supremacists” are not “the problem.”

It’s this constant, “Oh, it’s the white man. It’s the white supremacists. That’s the problem.” No, it isn’t, Maggie Haberman. Go to Sinjar. Go to the Middle East, and tell me what the real problem is today. Go to Manchester.

Gorka noted that the Oklahoma City bombing was 22 years ago, which is true. But since 9/11, right-wing extremists — almost always white men and frequently white supremacists — have been far more deadly domestically than Muslim extremists. A study found that in the first 13.5 years after 9/11, Muslim extremists were responsible for 50 deaths in the United States. Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.”

I wonder if he went to the rally in Charlottesville?

Meanwhile, Trump has apparently been threatening a nuclear holocaust in an effort to change the subject from the Russia investigation, because there’s no sign of the U.S. military gearing up for war or of the government moving to evacuate U.S. citizens from South Korea and other areas that could be threatened by strikes on North Korea.

US Naval Base in Guam

Defense News: If the US is going to war in North Korea, nobody told the US military.

If you watch cable news or follow the president’s Twitter feed, you might be under the impression that the U.S. is heading to war with North Korea. But somebody, it seems, forgot to loop in the U.S. military.

North Korea is threatening to launch missiles toward Guam; U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning that military options were “locked and loaded;” NBC News ran a story Wednesday claiming the U.S. had ”prepared a plan” to strike North Korean missile sites with B-1 bombers.

But while the rhetoric is nearing a fever pitch in D.C., out in the Pacific you’d never know the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

In Yokosuka, Japan, the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed ready aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan sits peacefully pier-side, along with the U.S. 7th Fleet command ship Blue Ridge. On the Korean Peninsula, the State Department has not advised American citizens to leave the country and U.S. military family members are not being evacuated. No Marines are being loaded on amphibious ships; no sailors have been recalled off leave to prepare for emergency operations; and no ballistic missile defense ships have been sortied to North Korea, the waters off Japan or to Guam, three sources said.

The frenzied rhetoric being propelled by the president’s words and fed back by the news cycle is, for the second time this year, failing to match what’s actually happening, sources told Defense News.

Continue reading at the link.

Eddie Baza Calvo Govornor of Guam

I guess Trump wasn’t satisfied with the panic he has caused around the world, because yesterday he seemed to threaten military intervention in Venezuela. But more evidence that this is nothing but a “wag the dog” strategy came in a phone call Trump made to the governor of Guam late last night. The New York Times: Trump to Guam Governor: North Korea Threats Will Boost Tourism ‘Tenfold.’

If there’s one thing that Guam does not have to worry about while the tiny island is in the nuclear cross hairs of North Korea, it’s tourism, President Trump told the island’s governor in a phone call made public on Saturday.

The threat by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to create “an enveloping fire” around the tiny United States territory in the Western Pacific will boost Guam tourism “tenfold,” Mr. Trump is heard saying in the recorded conversation with Gov. Eddie Calvo.

The recording was put on the Republican governor’s Facebook page and other social media accounts.

Mr. Trump said: “I have to tell you, you have become extremely famous all over the world. They are talking about Guam; and they’re talking about you.” And when it comes to tourism, he added, “I can say this: You’re going to go up, like, tenfold with the expenditure of no money.”

Trump is another P.T. Barnum, and he’s turned our government into a three-ring circus. It appears he is actually enjoying his ability to strike terror into millions of people around the globe. He’s getting off on it. I’m beginning to wonder if Trump suffers from bi-polar disorder. He is acting as if he’s in a manic phase and about to spiral out of control.

Journalist Daniel Dale tweeted a comparison of the White House readout of the Guam call vs. an actual transcript.

The New York Times and The Atlantic each have lengthy articles up asking why Trump can’t ever criticize Putin. Neither author suggests what is likely the real reason–Trump is a Russian asset.

The New York Times: Combative Trump Pulls His Punches for One Man: Putin.

TheAtlantic: Why Does Trump Still Refuse to Criticize Putin?

A couple more interesting stories I came across this morning, and then I’m going to retire to my bed to nurse a throbbing headache caused by reading about all this insanity.

The Hill: Former Mueller deputy on Trump: ‘Government is going to kill this guy.’

CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd warned that President Trump is agitating the government, saying during a Thursday afternoon interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper that the U.S. government “is going to kill this guy.”

Mudd, who served as deputy director to former FBI Director Robert Mueller, said Trump’s defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin has compelled federal employees “at Langley, Foggy Bottom, CIA and State” to try to take Trump down.

“Let me give you one bottom line as a former government official. Government is going to kill this guy,” Mudd, a staunch critic of Trump, said on “The Lead.”

“He defends Vladimir Putin. There are State Department and CIA officers coming home, and at Langley and Foggy Bottom, CIA and State, they’re saying, ‘This is how you defend us?’ ” he continued.

Read the rest of Mudd’s rant at the link.

Nina Burleigh at Newsweek: Melania, Ivanka and Ivana Trump Wear High Heels, a Symbol of Everything that is Beautiful and Horrifying about Them.

The vertiginous spike-heel shoe is not currently in fashion, but for Ivana, Ivanka, Melania and the Trump daughters-in-law, Carrie Bradshaw’s shoe of choice never went out of style. In fact, the female consorts of the Leader of the Free World do not set foot in public without first molding their arches into the supranatural curve that Mattel toy designers once devised for Barbie’s plastic feet.

Six months in, and the Trump women are well on their way to normalizing the footwear of the beauty pageant. The Cinderella shoe fitted on the feet of all the Miss Teen USA’s and Miss Universes who ever beamed under the Trumpian gaze in contests of yore also is the shoe that average women can bear for only a few hours at weddings or proms, before casting them off, moaning and rubbing their soles.Former Vogue editor Andre Leon Talley, a longtime friend of Melania Trump’s, believes that, other than the White House Easter Egg hunt on the lawn, Melania has not been photographed as first lady without her feet arched into one of two brands of towering high-heeled shoes that she favors, Manolo Blahniks or the 4.5-inch-heeled Oh So Kate by Christian Louboutin. (Talley says Melania picked up 22 pairs of Manolos in various colors before decamping to the White House last month.)

In their old age, these women will need serious health care for their feet.

The stiletto is a podiatrist’s dream, or nightmare, depending on your point of view, because devoted wearers ultimately require medical attention. “As you get older in these shoes, your feet are going to have problems,” Talley says. “I am not gonna say Melania is gonna have them soon, but sooner or later she is going have to come down off that high arch.”

The internet and YouTube are rife with tutorials on how to bear the pain (bandages, gel inserts, baby powder) and walk gracefully in them. Michelle Phan’s “How to Master the High Heel” tutorial has received millions of views. Her nuggets of advice include: “Your first assignment when walking in heels is to find a straight line and follow it,” and “For every step you take, you need to have a general awareness of where your heel is being placed.”

Stiletto pumps demand a critical level of attention to pebbles, cobbles, sidewalk cracks, mud, grass, curbs and stairs—all while keeping head erect and shoulders back—that has sometimes eluded even the greatest public females. Remember Naomi Campbell’s famous runway spill. Or Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the steps to receive her Oscar.

But not the Trump women. Read the rest at the link.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

An inflatable chicken meant to resemble President Trump on the Ellipse, just south of the White House, on Wednesday. Credit Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/10/us/politics/trump-giant-inflatable-chicken.html

Good Afternoon!!

Where to begin? We’re still seeing the fallout from the news that broke yesterday about the late July predawn raid on Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, Trump is threatening war with North Korea and feuding with Mitch McConnell, and more info is coming out about the latest frightening climate change report, and the White House is just as chaotic as ever despite John Kelly’s efforts. I have no doubt that more crazy news will break before I finish this post.

I’ll start with the Manafort raid followup. First, it was a “no-knock” raid according to Jim Sciutto of CNN.

That means that the Special Counsel convinced a judge that Manafort might destroy evidence if he knew the FBI was at his front door. I guess it also means the FBI broke down his door. That’s  huge.

From Just Security: FBI Search of Paul Manafort’s Home: What Does It Really Mean?

Mueller’s use of a search warrant tells us that he was able to establish on the basis of evidence, and to the satisfaction of a United States Magistrate-Judge, that there was probable cause to believe that evidence of a specific crime or crimes existed in the location to be searched. That standard is significantly higher than what is required to obtain a grand jury subpoena, which can be used to obtain any evidence that a grand jury (under the direction of a prosecutor) decides will be helpful to their investigation. Mueller’s resort to a search warrant shows, therefore, that his investigation has advanced, has identified specific potential crimes, and is zeroing in on key evidence. Since it was Manafort’s house that was searched, it is likely that he is implicated in the crimes, but that is not necessarily the case. Further, it should be clear that just because Mueller has now reached this stage in the investigation, it does not necessarily mean that Manafort or anybody else will be ultimately charged with crimes.

Now why did Mueller use a search warrant instead of a subpoena, particularly since Manafort’s attorney says that they have been cooperating with the investigation all along? I can think of four possible reasons for Mueller’s move (none of which are mutually exclusive).

Read the reasons at the link. Following the revelation of the raid, journalists and twitter users looked at the timeline of events and found some interesting Trump connections.

Think Progress: Trump called for acting FBI director’s firing hours after FBI agents raided Paul Manafort’s home.

In light of the news about the raid of Manafort’s home, Trump’s tweets on the day of July 26 are of renewed interest. That was the day Trump abruptly posted a string of tweets announcing “that the United States government will not accept or allow [t]ransgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Last Friday, Politico reported that Trump’s declaration stunned White House and Department of Defense lawyers who had warned him against such a ban.

But more directly of interest are factually inaccurate tweets Trump posted later that day asking why Attorney General Jeff Sessions hadn’t moved to replace then-acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.

This morning, Fox News reported more evidence that Trump likely knew about the raid on the morning it happened: Trump lawyer slams special counsel for ‘gross abuse’ in Manafort raid, challenges warrant.

A top lawyer for President Trump slammed the special counsel’s office over the FBI raid of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, accusing investigators of committing a “gross abuse of the judicial process” for the sake of “shock value” – and employing tactics normally seen “in Russia not America.”

Trump attorney John Dowd leveled the complaints in an email sent to a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote about the Manafort raid. The email was obtained by Fox News.

The email reflects Trump’s legal team moving to protect the president, amid speculation that the raid could be part of a broader effort to squeeze Manafort for information on Trump.

Dowd, in his note, questioned the validity of the search warrant itself, calling it an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.” Dowd said Manafort already was looking to cooperate with congressional committees and said the special counsel never requested the materials from Manafort.

If Manafort informed Trump’s lawyers about the raid, they probably told Trump himself.

More on Mueller’s investigation of Manafort, and likely efforts to get him to flip on Trump:

Politico: Feds sought cooperation from Manafort’s son-in-law.

Federal investigators sought cooperation from Paul Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to increase pressure on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, according to three people familiar with the probe.

Investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered in business deals with Manafort, earlier this summer, setting off “real waves” in Manafort’s orbit, one of these people said. Another of these people said investigators are trying to get “into Manafort’s head.”

Manafort, who is a focus of the broad federal and congressional investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, is also under investigation for his business and real estate transactions, including some that involve Yohai.

That probe has accelerated in recent weeks, according to one of the people familiar with it….

It is unclear if investigators have secured cooperation from Yohai, who also hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. A lawyer for Yohai didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg: With Bank Subpoenas, Mueller Turns Up the Heat on Manafort.

Mueller’s team of investigators has sent subpoenas in recent weeks from a Washington grand jury to global banks for account information and records of transactions involving Manafort and some of his companies, as well as those of a long-time business partner, Rick Gates, according to people familiar with the matter.

The special counsel has also reached out to other business associates, including Manafort’s son-in-law and a Ukrainian oligarch, according to one of the people. Those efforts were characterized as an apparent attempt to gain information that could be used to squeeze Manafort, or force him to be more helpful to prosecutors.

Manafort’s apartment building in Virginia

As prosecutors gather many years of information about his financial affairs, Manafort could be dragged deeper into any number of legal disputes. He has a history of doing business with oligarchs and politicians in Ukraine and Russia that predates his political work for Trump, with payments routed through foreign banks and investments in U.S. real estate….

Part of the reason Manafort is getting intense early scrutiny is that Mueller is drawing on investigations that were well underway, including one by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, when he was appointed in May.

With prosecutors combing through his financial life, the 68-year-old has been toeing a fine line, cooperating with congressional requests for information about the campaign, and insisting he has nothing to hide from Mueller’s team of prosecutors who are delving into his past. Privately, his supporters question Mueller’s work to unearth conduct with no apparent connection to the 2016 election.

North Korea appears to be winning the war of words with Trump. 

The Atlantic: North Korea Answers Trump’s Vague Threats With Specific Ones.

President Trump seemed to draw a red line Tuesday when he warned North Korea that continued threats against the United States would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” The next day, North Korea crossed it.

Or at least it announced, in unusually specific terms, how it could. The country’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Wednesday night issued a statement that said the North is “seriously examining the plan for an enveloping strike at Guam through simultaneous fire of four Hwasong-12 intermediate-range strategic ballistic rockets in order to interdict the enemy forces on major military bases on Guam and to signal a crucial warning to the U.S.” The statement, citing the North’s Strategic Rocket Forces head General Kim Rak Gyom, added that the plan would be finished by mid-August before going to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for approval.

“Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him,” the general said, in apparent reference to Trump, whose ultimatum he described as a “load of nonsense.”

The announcement, coming a day after the North threatened Guam in vaguer terms, is stunning not only as an escalation, but also for the level of detail with which it describes the proposed strike. The statement spells out the number of intermediate-range ballistic missiles that would be involved (four), how far they would fly (approximately 2,085 miles), their exact flight path (they would traverse the three Japanese prefectures of Shimane, Hiroshima, and Koichi), plus how long all of this would take (about 20 minutes), and the earliest the plan would be ready (mid-August, so, conservatively, within a few days). And it takes care to specify that the end point of the missiles is not Guam itself, but the waters off its eastern coast (18 to 25 miles off, to be exact).

Jeffrey Lewis at Foreign Policy: The Game Is Over and North Korea Has Won.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that North Korea has a large stockpile of compact nuclear weapons that can arm the country’s missiles, including its new intercontinental ballistic missiles that are capable of hitting the United States. That’s another way of saying: game over.

Also: I told you so.

There are really two assessments in the Post’s report. One, dated July 28, is that the intelligence community — not just the Defense Intelligence Agency, contrary to what you may have heard — “assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” The other assessment, published earlier in July, stated that North Korea had 60 nuclear weapons — higher than the estimates usually given in the press. Put them together, though, and its pretty clear that the window for denuclearizing North Korea, by diplomacy or by force, has closed.

These judgments are front-page news, but only because we’ve been living in collective denial. Both intelligence assessments are consistent with what the North Koreans have been saying for some time, for reasons I outlined in a column here at Foreign Policy immediately after the September 2016 nuclear test titled, “North Korea’s Nuke Program Is Way More Sophisticated Than You Think: This is now a serious nuclear arsenal that threatens the region and, soon, the continental United States.”

Continue reading at Foreign Policy.

On the Trump-McConnell spat:

Business Insider: Trump’s feud with Mitch McConnell ‘is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.’

A burgeoning feud between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have significant ramifications for the GOP’s once-ambitious policy agenda.

Analysts say the war of words could be another stumbling block for various Republican plans after limited success in their first seven months of power in Washington.

“The Trump/McConnell war of words has zero upside for the GOP agenda and is potentially limit-down,” Chris Krueger, an analyst at Cowen Washington Research Group. “It is breathtaking in its dysfunctionality.”

Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider that the words are a stark example of the divide that exists between the two.

“I think the state of political rhetoric is concerning for both the GOP’s legislative agenda and the fiscal deadlines in September,” Isaac Boltansky, a political analyst at the research firm Compass Point, told Business Insider. “Trump and McConnell are linchpins in the legislative process, and these comments suggest a deep divide in both tone and substance.”The cracks are starting to show at a critical time for the GOP agenda, as necessary deadlines and a massive tax reform fight loom on the horizon.

Read more at the BI link.

White House Insanity Updates

New York Magazine: Sebastian Gorka Thinks the Minnesota Mosque Attack May Have Been a False Flag.

In the early morning hours of August 5, someone hurled an improvised explosive device at a mosque in Bloomington, Minnesota. None of the roughly 20 early morning worshippers were injured, but the blast broke windows and began a small fire, filling the building with smoke. The mosque’s executive director told a local TV station that “one of our congregation members came out immediately and he saw a truck fleeing from the parking lot, running at very high speed.” The FBI is investigating; no arrests have been made. On Sunday, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton called the attack “an act of terrorism.”

But the response from the Trump administration has been predictable yet disturbing: almost complete silence. President Trump has not issued a statement or tweeted about the Minnesota attack, preferring to direct his attention to other pressing matters, like Senator Richard Blumenthal’s Vietnam record.  (The Department of Homeland Security  did issue a strong statement condemning the attack.)

In a Tuesday appearance on MSNBC, Nazi-ish quasi–White House adviser Sebastian Gorka put forth a bizarre justification for the radio silence: The attack, you see, may have been perpetrated by the left.

“There’s a great rule: All initial reports are false,” Gorka said. (Editor’s note: This is a terrible rule.) “You have to check them; you have to find out who the perpetrators are,” Gorka continued. “We’ve had a series of crimes committed — alleged hate crimes by right-wing individuals in the last six months — that turned out to actually have been propagated by the left. So let’s wait and see, let’s allow the local authorities to provide their assessments, and then the White House will make its comments.” Responding to Stephanie Ruhle’s assertion that Trump had no problem immediately commenting on a London terror attack in June, Gorka countered that it was obvious in that case who the perpetrators were — ignoring the fact that Trump tweeted out a Drudge Report story written before any facts were known. Ruhle also made the eminently reasonable point that “you don’t have to make a statement about who did it, but you can make a public statement about how terrible it would be to attack a building of worship.” “That’s fine,” Gorka responded unconvincingly. “And I’m sure the president will do that.”

Anthony Scaramucci is no longer in the White House, but he’s still making news. The Washington Post: The Mooch as Monica Lewinsky? Scaramucci’s saga keeps getting stranger.

Anthony Scaramucci keeps complaining about the interview that cost him his job as White House communications director. And in doing so, he keeps betraying how amateur it was that the White House ever hired him.

When the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza first reported on Scaramucci’s vulgar comments about his then-White House colleagues two weeks ago, Scaramucci said he would tone down the language. He then apparently decided to get a little more combative, suggesting the interview wasn’t meant to be published and that a fellow Italian American like Lizza should have known he was just B.S.-ing.

And now that Lizza published additional comments from the interview Wednesday, Scaramucci is trying a new tack: Accusing Lizza of recording him without his knowledge by comparing him to a figure from the Bill Clinton sex scandal, Linda Tripp.

Go to the WaPo to read the whole ridiculous story.

I’ll get to the climate change news in the comment thread. This post is way too long.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Yeah, But Her Emails . . .

Good Afternoon!!

I’m having another one of those days when having a corrupt, moronic, megalomaniacal monster as “president” is just too much to bear. Why is the universe torturing us like this? Is there any hope for the future?

One positive sign is that people of conscience in the government continue to leak information that Trump would prefer to hush up. Vanity Fair summarizes reporting from The NYT and The Guardian: Damning Federal Climate Report Leaked Before Trump Can Suppress It.

According to a government report that was leaked to The New York Times, average temperature in the U.S. have risen rapidly since 1980, and recent decades have been the hottest in the past 1,500 years. “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” reads the congressionally mandated report, which was drafted by scientists spanning 13 federal agencies. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the paper, and it is now awaiting approval from the Trump administration.

According to the Times, scientists fear that the Trump administration could either alter or suppress the findings, and for good reason. The notion of the president’s team signing off on such a report seems about as plausible as the president having read the pope’s manifesto. Its assertion that “many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change” jar inconveniently with Trump’s instinctive assumption that global warming is actually a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

And The Guardian obtained some internal administration emails that demonstrate Trump’s efforts to censor scientific research and results

It must be irritating for the White House, then, that just as the Times broke their story, the Guardian obtained a series of e-mails that implicate his administration in a bout of hoax-perpetuation, too. Staff at the Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) have been told to get inventive with their use of language, and are being advised to replace the term climate change with the phrase “resilience to weather extremes,” according to the outlet. Bianca Moebis-Clune, director of soil health at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (N.R.C.S.), a U.S.D.A. unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation, helpfully circulated a concise encyclopedia of other, non-synonymous terms. For example, “reduce greenhouse gas” could, and should, be replaced by “build soil organic matter, increase nutrient use efficiency.” “Sequester carbon” is no longer wholly appropriate, so staff should now refer to “build soil organic matter.”

“We won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it—there are a lot of benefits to putting carbon back in the sail [sic], climate mitigation is just one of them,” she wrote in an e-mail to staff on February 16, referencing advice from a colleague from the U.S.D.A.’s public affairs team to “tamp down on discretionary messaging right now.” Still, her note was not all negative. References to economic growth, emerging business opportunities in the rural U.S. and “improved aesthetics” should be “tolerated if not appreciated by all.” In another e-mail to senior employees on January 24, just days after Trump was inaugurated, Jimmy Bramblett, deputy chief for programs at the N.R.C.S., said, “It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift of perspective within the executive branch.” He added that “prudence” should be used when referring to greenhouse gases, and that existing work on air quality regarding these gases could be stopped.

More from The Washington Post: White House reviewing new report that finds strong link between climate change, human activity.

The draft report, which has undergone extensive review, estimates that human impact was responsible for an increase in global temperatures of 1.1 to 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1951 to 2010.

“Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate changes,” the report notes. “There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate.”

That counters what Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have said.

It remains unclear how the White House — which announced in June that it would pull out of the Paris climate accord — will handle the report. Many scientists are looking at it as a test case of the administration’s attitude toward science in general.

“The current situation will provide an acid test of whether the Trump administration is open to hearing the scientific truth about climate change or is so much in the thrall of fossil fuel interests that they are fixated on hiding the reality from the public,” Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, said Monday night.

The Climate Science Special Report is a key element of the National Climate Assessment, which, according to the 1990 Global Change Research Act, is supposed to be issued every four years. However, the assessment has come out only three times. The 2000 assessment, finalized under President Bill Clinton, came under attack once George W. Bush took office. Bush administrationofficials declined to cite it in subsequent federal reports, arguing that aspects of the data analysis were flawed.

According to the WaPo, the White House has had a copy of the report for “several weeks.”

Kurt Andersen has a new book coming out on September 5 called Fantasyland: How American Went Haywire; and The Atlantic has published an excerpt from it as its September cover story: How America Lost Its Mind. It’s a long article, and I haven’t finished it yet. Here are the first several paragraphs:

When did america become untethered from reality?

I first noticed our national lurch toward fantasy in 2004, after President George W. Bush’s political mastermind, Karl Rove, came up with the remarkable phrase reality-based community. People in “the reality-based community,” he told a reporter, “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality … That’s not the way the world really works anymore.” A year later, The Colbert Report went on the air. In the first few minutes of the first episode, Stephen Colbert, playing his right-wing-populist commentator character, performed a feature called “The Word.” His first selection: truthiness. “Now, I’m sure some of the ‘word police,’ the ‘wordinistas’ over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word!’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true. Or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books—they’re all fact, no heart … Face it, folks, we are a divided nation … divided between those who think with their head and those who know with their heart … Because that’s where the truth comes from, ladies and gentlemen—the gut.”

Whoa, yes, I thought: exactly. America had changed since I was young, when truthiness and reality-based community wouldn’t have made any sense as jokes. For all the fun, and all the many salutary effects of the 1960s—the main decade of my childhood—I saw that those years had also been the big-bang moment for truthiness. And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it.

Each of us is on a spectrum somewhere between the poles of rational and irrational. We all have hunches we can’t prove and superstitions that make no sense. Some of my best friends are very religious, and others believe in dubious conspiracy theories. What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control. From the start, our ultra-individualism was attached to epic dreams, sometimes epic fantasies—every American one of God’s chosen people building a custom-made utopia, all of us free to reinvent ourselves by imagination and will. In America nowadays, those more exciting parts of the Enlightenment idea have swamped the sober, rational, empirical parts. Little by little for centuries, then more and more and faster and faster during the past half century, we Americans have given ourselves over to all kinds of magical thinking, anything-goes relativism, and belief in fanciful explanation—small and large fantasies that console or thrill or terrify us. And most of us haven’t realized how far-reaching our strange new normal has become.

Continue reading at The Atlantic link.

One more hopeful bit of news is that Trump’s base is shrinking. Yesterday Trump tweeted the “fake news” that he wants people to believe. The Washington Post: No, Donald Trump’s base is not ‘far bigger and stronger than ever before.’

President Trump is clearly rankled by the notion that his political support is slipping, pushing back against the idea during a barrage of tweets Monday from his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, where aides said he is having a “working vacation.” [….]

In fact, as his overall approval rate has sunk, some of the president’s core supporters have soured on his performance, polls show. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found 23 percent of registered voters “strongly approve” of Trump’s handling of his job, down from 29 percent who felt that way during his first week in office. Even white voters with no college degree — one of the demographics that backed his candidacy most enthusiastically — disapprove of how Trump is handling his job by 50 percent to 43 percent.

His support among Republicans is still around 75%, but the trend is downward. You can read the Trump tweets at the WaPo link, if you wish.

I know there’s much more happening, but I’m burned out at the moment. I’m hoping the return of Rachel Maddow tonight will give me something to hang onto.

What stories are you following today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: The Latest News with Photos of Authors and their Cats

11 Feb 2003, Woody Creek, Colorado, USA — Author Hunter S. Thompson poses for a portrait with his cat in 2003 at his home. Image by © Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

Good Afternoon!!

Trump left for a golfing vacation in New Jersey yesterday, but the insanity continues at the White House. The Bannon crowd is trying to get rid of H.R. McMaster and Bob Mueller’s investigation has reaching into the WH for the first time.

I’ll get to the McMaster story in a bit, but first, the latest on the Russia investigation. The New York Times broke another big Russia investigation story last night: Mueller Seeks White House Documents on Flynn.

Investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, recently asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation.

Though not a formal subpoena, the document request is the first known instance of Mr. Mueller’s team asking the White House to hand over records.

Doris Lessing

In interviews with potential witnesses in recent weeks, prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have spent hours poring over the details of Mr. Flynn’s business dealings with a Turkish-American businessman who worked last year with Mr. Flynn and his consulting business, the Flynn Intel Group.

The company was paid $530,000 to run a campaign to discredit an opponent of the Turkish government who has been accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in the country.

Investigators want to know if the Turkish government was behind those payments — and if the Flynn Intel Group made kickbacks to the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, for helping conceal the source of the money.

The line of questioning shows that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry has expanded into a full-fledged examination of Mr. Flynn’s financial dealings, beyond the relatively narrow question of whether he failed to register as a foreign agent or lied about his conversations and business arrangements with Russian officials.

Read the rest at the NYT. A couple of days ago, Flynn had to correct his financial disclosure report once again. The Washington Post: Flynn files amended disclosure report showing additional payments.

Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Trump’s national security adviser, filed an amended federal financial disclosure report late Thursday providing new details about his contracts with the Trump presidential transition, a company connected to an Iranian American businessman, and the parent company of a data science firm that worked for the Trump campaign.

In a letter accompanying his revised disclosure, Flynn noted that his initial disclosure reports were filed under rushed circumstances without the customary consultation and review provided by White House lawyers and the Office of Government Ethics. The letter said Flynn did not receive the attention afforded others because he was no longer a White House employee at the time….

Don DeLillo, New York City, 1990s

In addition to the Russia-related income, Thursday’s filing showed that Flynn received at least $5,000 as a consultant to a project to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East. Flynn’s work on that project had been disclosed previously, but it was not known that he was paid.

The updated disclosure also confirms that Flynn had agreed to work with the SCL Group, at the time the British parent company of Cambridge Analytica, a data science company hired by Donald Trump’s campaign. One of Cambridge’s main financiers is hedge fund magnate Robert L. Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah is an influential conservative donor.

I guess that explains why Steve Bannon was so upset when Flynn was fired. And why Bannon is pushing to get rid of National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. McMaster recently got rid of several Flynn appointees to the NSC, including Ezra Cohen Watnick, whom McMaster tried and failed to fire awhile back. The Bannon white supremacist crowd is boiling mad over McMaster’s purge of Flynn loyalists.

Rosie Gray at The Atlantic: The War Against H.R. McMaster.

Long-simmering tensions within the White House burst into public view this week after the firings of three National Security Council officials, resulting in National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster becoming Public Enemy No. 1 of the pro-Trump online brigades.

Haruki Murakami

McMaster has cleaned house at the NSC over the past few weeks. Via his deputy Ricky Waddell, he fired director of strategic planning Rich Higgins last month over a memo Higgins wrote alleging a deep-state conspiracy against President Trump. McMaster then dismissed two top officials brought on by the previous national-security adviser, Michael Flynn: the NSC’s senior director for the Middle East, Derek Harvey, who was fired last week; and the senior director for intelligence programs, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was let go on Wednesday….

McMaster’s show of force has set off alarm bells among Bannon allies in the pro-Trump media sphere, who favored Flynn and regard the national-security adviser as a globalist interloper. Other White House officials have in the past been targets of theirs—Priebus was, for example—but the vitriol against McMaster has been notable for its speed and intensity….

It’s come from all corners. Breitbart News, the website Bannon controlled as executive chairman before joining the Trump campaign, has produced a flurry of negative stories about McMaster over the past two days, accusing him of “purging” dissenters and kowtowing to “holdovers” from the Obama administration. Fox News host Sean Hannity has tweeted about McMaster, saying he might need to go. Radio host Laura Ingraham has also weighed in, tweeting that “Obama holdovers at NSC or State Dept who are leaking shd do real time for these leaks. Why has McMasters fired actual Trump supporters?” The Daily Callerpublished an interview with two former NSC officials attacking him, accusing him of undermining the president’s foreign-policy agenda. Circa, a site owned by the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting company, published a letter Thursday that McMaster sent months ago to his predecessor Susan Rice, in which he informed her that she could keep her security clearance. It’s a standard letter, but it has caused a furor in light of the ongoing controversy over unmasking.

Colette

Even Haaretz has gotten involved in the story: Israeli Defense Officials Strongly Reject Criticism of McMaster as ‘anti-Israel.’

Far-right websites, namely Breitbart (formerly edited by Bannon), quoted two senior White House officials as saying that McMaster holds strong anti-Israel views and views it as an “illegitimate entity” and “occupying power.” The crisis is linked to McMaster’s decision to remove four Bannon allies from the National Security Council.

Senior Israeli defense officials told Haaretz on Saturday that the allegations against McMaster concerning Israel are false and baseless. McMaster accompanied Trump to Israel last May, during which he had a three-hour conversation with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Jerusalem. The meeting was described by the Israeli side as excellent. McMaster and his staff keep regular contact with the top echelons of the IDF and Defense Ministry – particularly with the head of the Defense Ministry’s political-security department, Zohar Palti.

“All on our side who has met McMaster and keeps contact with him are constantly impressed by how pro-Israel he is. The relationship with him is excellent, and we really appreciate him,” one of the senior defense officials told Haaretz.

The New York Times’ Peter Baker reports that Trump is backing McMaster for now: Trump Defends McMaster as Conservatives Seek His Dismissal.

…after two days of unrelenting attacks on General McMaster by conservative activists and news sites, complete with the Twitter hashtag #FireMcMaster, the president weighed in to quash such talk. “General McMaster and I are working very well together,” he said in a statement emailed to The New York Times. “He is a good man and very proIsrael. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”

A senior White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the president’s views, added that Mr. Trump has “total confidence” in his national security adviser.

Ernest Hemingway

In other Russia investigation news, Slate dug an interesting tidbit out of a recent CNN article: U.S. Reportedly Intercepted Suspected Russian Agents’ Chatter That Manafort Asked for Their Help With Clinton.

Buried in a long story on CNN Thursday recapping the current state of play in the Russia investigation was a reminder that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is largely out of the spotlight at the moment, may not be for long. Manafort, who had spent years on the political fringes helping dictators and strongmen get elected around the world and then lobbying on their behalf in Washington, came out of nowhere to join the Trump campaign, and then take over the reins when Cory Lewandowski was fired in June 2016. By that time, unusual communications between the Trump campaign and Russian officials had pinged on U.S. intelligence agencies’ radar. As did Trump’s new right hand man.

In the summer of 2016, US intelligence agencies noticed a spate of curious contacts between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian intelligence, according to current and former US officials briefed on the investigation… CNN has learned that investigators became more suspicious when they turned up intercepted communications that U.S. intelligence agencies collected among suspected Russian operatives discussing their efforts to work with Manafort, who served as campaign chairman for three months, to coordinate information that could damage Hillary Clinton’s election prospects, the US officials say. The suspected operatives relayed what they claimed were conversations with Manafort, encouraging help from the Russians.

One more story related to Russia from The Dallas News: Tangled web connects Russian oligarch money to GOP campaigns. I posted this in the comments yesterday, but it’s worth front-paging.

La Rondinaia, Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy — Author Gore Vidal at his home, La Rondinaia, in Ravello, Italy. Image by © Jonathan Blair/CORBIS

Party loyalty is often cited as the reason that GOP leaders have not been more outspoken in their criticism of President Donald Trump and his refusal to condemn Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.

During the 2015-2016 election season, Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonid “Len” Blavatnik contributed $6.35 million to leading Republican candidates and incumbent senators. Mitch McConnell was the top recipient of Blavatnik’s donations, collecting $2.5 million for his GOP Senate Leadership Fund under the names of two of Blavatnik’s holding companies, Access Industries and AI Altep Holdings, according to Federal Election Commission documents and OpenSecrets.org.

Marco Rubio’s Conservative Solutions PAC and his Florida First Project received $1.5 million through Blavatnik’s two holding companies. Other high dollar recipients of funding from Blavatnik were PACS representing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker at $1.1 million, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at $800,000, Ohio Governor John Kasich at $250,000 and Arizona Senator John McCain at $200,000.

What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Is This Reality or a Twisted Dr. Strangelove Remake?

Good Morning!!

Is anyone else getting the feeling that we’re living in an even crazier remake of “Dr. Strangelove?” Except in this version, the “president” is complete nincompoop who resembles a combination of Gen. “Buck” Turgidson and Brig. Jack D. Ripper.

Despite Trump’s appointment of Gen. John Kelly as WH chief of staff, the leaks are still streaming out of the place Trump calls “a real dump.”

Yesterday NBC News revealed that threw a tantrum in a meeting with generals because they haven’t been able to “win” the war in Afghanistan despite the fact that Trump has refused to sign off on a strategy to do so. I guess he thought a 15-year war could be wrapped up in his first few months in office simply because he was now in charge.

President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials

During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice….

Trump’s national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.

Here’s a reaction form Kevin Drum at Mother Jones: Afghanistan Plan Killed Because ‘21’ Closed For Remodeling 30 Years Ago. This Is Not a Joke.

Trump chatted with a few soldiers who were unhappy about this and that—after all, it’s the God-given right of every buck private in the Army to know exactly how the brass are botching things up—and therefore decided to reject his generals’ plan. And before you all start yammering about how Trump said last year that he already had a plan ready to go, that was for Iraq. He never said he had a plan for Afghanistan. OK?

And now, for some more comic relief, here’s an inside look at how Trump comes up with these bright ideas:

To underscore his view that the veterans who fought in the war may be better positioned to advise him on an Afghanistan strategy, Trump compared the policy review process to the renovation of a famed New York restaurant in the 1980s, officials said. Trump told his advisers that the restaurant, Manhattan’s elite ‘21’ Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for a renovation. After a year, Trump said, the consultant’s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.

Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result.

The ‘21’ Club, which has been one of Trump’s favorite New York spots, closed for two months in 1987 while it underwent a full renovation and reopened to great fanfare.

Consensus reality is that the run-down 21 Club closed for two months after it changed ownership,¹ and then reopened after a big renovation. Trump reality is that his favorite haunt was closed forever and they didn’t even fix whatever petty gripe he probably had at the time. Because of this, he rejected the new Afghanistan plan. That’s quite the butterfly effect, isn’t it?

Actually the restaurant closed for three months, but definitely not a year. Poor Donnie really missed eating out in that place, and now it’s his metaphor for what’s wrong in Afghanistan. Maybe he should try actually visiting Afghanistan instead of golfing all the time. He could stop in Iraq on the way back to the dump. Trump claims he didn’t say that, but according to a witness, At least 8 people heard Trump call the White House a ‘dump.’

Alan Shipnuck told Golf Magazine that eight or nine people heard Trump call the White House a dump.

Shipnuck published a report about Trump’s golfing hobby in Sports Illustrated this week, which included the revelation that Trump called the president’s house a “real dump” compared to his New Jersey country club.

Shipnuck told Golf Magazine that a White House spokeswoman called him to demand a retraction for the statement, but that he would not do so because he heard it from multiple people and that he believes they are credible sources.

“It might be inconvenient for her boss and she might wish he didn’t say it, but it’s not a lie,” he said.

“They definitely don’t waste any time trying to be charming or friendly, these people in the White House communications department,” he added.

During the White House briefing yesterday, one of Trump’s white supremacist aides attacked the Statue of Liberty. Slate: Stephen Miller Doesn’t Care for Your Stupid Poem, Statue of Liberty.

White House senior adviser for policy Stephen Miller spoke at the daily press briefing on Wednesday to tout Donald Trump’s newly announced plan to cut legal immigration in half and make it harder for non-native English speakers or low-skill workers to enter the country

When he was challenged on this part of the proposal by CNN reporter Jim Acosta, Miller decided to explain who America’s real enemy was: The poem on the Statue of Liberty.

Acosta asked:

The Statue of Liberty says “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It doesn’t say anything about speaking English or being able to be a computer programmer. Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?

And Miller’s response:

I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of liberty enlightening the world; it’s a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to that was added later and is not part of the original Statue of Liberty.

(For those interested, here is a brief history of how that poem came to become synonymous with the Statue of Liberty and this country’s assimilation of immigrants.)

Acosta and Miller then got into a lengthy back-and-forth about what it means to be an immigrant to this country. Acosta accused the administration of attempting to limit immigration in a way that was “trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.” Miller responded that Acosta betrayed his “cosmopolitan bias” and “ignorance” by suggesting that the administration was trying to limit immigration to certain types of people.

By the way, “cosmopolitan” is term that was historically used to attack Jews. Charles Pierce: The Historical Significance of ‘Cosmopolitan’ as an Insult.

The way Miller leaned into the word “cosmopolitan” while answering Acosta has a long and ignoble history in 20th century authoritarianism, especially the anti-Semitic variety. During World War II, for example, the Soviet government under Stalin used to rail regularly at “rootless cosmopolitanism,” especially in the arts. The Nazis were fond of tossing it around, too. There is no context in which Miller’s use of the word against Acosta makes sense except as a historical signaling device.

Also, Miller doesn’t know dick about Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty. She wrote the poem, “The New Colossus,” from which the famous lines on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal were taken in 1883 for the purpose of raising funds for … wait for it … the Statue of Liberty.

How do you put this uninformed goon in front of the camera? Jesus, these really are the fcking mole people.

This morning we got more juicy leaks from The Washington Post. They somehow obtained transcripts of Trump’s January calls with Mexican and Australian leaders. You can read them at that link, and/or check out this article: Trump urged Mexican president to end his public defiance on border wall, transcript reveals.

From the Mexico call:

President Trump made building a wall along the southern U.S. border and forcing Mexico to pay for it core pledges of his campaign.

But in his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay.

“You cannot say that to the press,” Trump said repeatedly, according to a transcript of the Jan. 27 call obtained by The Washington Post. Trump made clear that he realized the funding would have to come from other sources but threatened to cut off contact if Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto continued to make defiant statements.

The funding “will work out in the formula somehow,” Trump said, adding later that “it will come out in the wash, and that is okay.” But “if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that.”

A little more:

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

“On the wall, you and I both have a political problem,” Trump said. “My people stand up and say, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ and your people probably say something in a similar but slightly different language.”

Trump seemed to acknowledge that his threats to make Mexico pay had left him cornered politically. “I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to,” he said. “I have been talking about it for a two-year period.”

 

New Hampshire voters will love this from the call with Nieto. CNN: Trump argues he won New Hampshire because it is a ‘drug-infested den.’

During the call, according to the Post, Trump lashed out at Peña Nieto for the quantity of illegal drugs that come into the United States from Mexico.
“We have a massive drug problem where kids are becoming addicted to drugs because the drugs are being sold for less money than candy,” Trump said.
He later bragged that he won the Granite State because of the opioid epidemic.
“I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den,” he said.

Trump doesn’t even know that drugs come into NH from Canada.

The Hill on the call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: Trump to Australian prime minister: ‘Putin was a pleasant call, this is ridiculous’

Trump argued with Turnbull over an agreement on refugees he thought was unfair during their first conversation following his inauguration.

“I have had it,” Trump told his Australian counterpart during the Jan. 28 call, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post and published on Thursday. “I have been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call all day.”

Trump also told Turnbull that his conversation with the Russian leader was far more enjoyable. “Putin was a pleasant call,” Trump said. “This is ridiculous.”

I’m going to work my way through these two transcripts, but I may wait awhile, because I spent a long time yesterday reading Trump’s insane interview with the Wall Street Journal, and I don’t want to have that Twilight Zone/Dr. Strangelove feeling all day today.

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Last Week’s White House Chaos Isn’t Over Yet

Trump Chaos

Good Morning!!

This week is on track to be as insane as last week in the Trump White House. Yesterday retired general John Kelly was sworn in as chief of staff, replacing Reince Priebus. Kelly apparently accepted the job from hell on the conditions that the entire WH staff would report to him and on the dismissal of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. But those stories were eclipsed last night by a Washington Post story about how Donald Trump Jr.’s initial statement about his June 9, 2016, meeting with Russian government representatives was formulated.

The Washington Post: Trump dictated son’s misleading statement on meeting with Russian lawyer.

On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump’s advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelation that Trump’s oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril.

The strategy, the advisers agreed, should be for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement to get ahead of the story. They wanted to be truthful, so their account couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.

But within hours, at the president’s direction, the plan changed.

Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.” [….]

The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.

As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III looks into potential obstruction of justice as part of his broader investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, these advisers worry that the president’s direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup.

Trump’s direct involvement in composing his son’s false statement could be more evidence of obstruction of justice.

Although misleading the public or the news media is not a crime, advisers to Trump and his family told The Washington Post that they fear any indication that Trump was seeking to hide information about contacts between his campaign and Russians almost inevitably would draw additional scrutiny from Mueller.

Trump, they say, is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired.

“He refuses to sit still,” the presidential adviser said. “He doesn’t think he’s in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he is going to solve by himself.” [….]

Because Trump believes he is innocent, some advisers explained, he therefore does not think he is at any legal risk for a coverup. In his mind, they said, there is nothing to conceal.

That’s idiotic. Even if there is no underlying crime, which is unlikely, Trump’s behavior demonstrates obstruction–and that’s a separate crime

This morning NBC news has more details on the Scaramucci firing: What Really Happened to Anthony Scaramucci.

Two sources close to President Donald Trump said Scaramucci’s profane remarks last week to The New Yorker magazine “disgusted” and “offended” some close to the president, including Melania Trump, and — crucially — Ivanka Trump, who had initially advocated for Scaramucci’s hiring.

Scaramucci was ousted Monday, the first day on the job for Trump’s new chief of staff, the retired Marine general John Kelly.

One source said both Ivanka and husband Jared Kushner supported Kelly and his move to dismiss Scaramucci.

And it wasn’t just the expletive-filled interview: Some in the West Wing believe Scaramucci overplayed his hand altogether, believing he could do no wrong in the eyes of the president.

While the White House didn’t initially decry Scaramucci’s vulgar comments to The New Yorker, by Friday the president was getting an earful from confidantes outside the administration. The blowback built. Even for a president who’s no stranger to salty language, Scaramucci’s interview, with its f-bombs and anatomical references, apparently came off as too lowbrow.

By mid-morning on Monday, Scaramucci was sacked and Kelly, a 40-year Marine, had conveyed to the rest of the staff that the chain of command now runs through him.

Any bets on how long that will last? Can Kelly really block Ivanka and Jared from walking into the oval office?

John Podesta, who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton offered advice to Kelly: don’t take the job. The Washington Post: The best advice I could have given to John Kelly: Don’t do it!

First, discipline. There’s no doubt the decision to replace Reince Priebus with Kelly was based on the hope that a former four-star Marine general could get this menagerie in line. You don’t have to compare the Trump White House to no-drama Obama or the buttoned-down Bush operations to know there is simply no precedent in modern history for the current White House culture of factionalism, infighting and lack of respect among senior staff members. Of course, most of Trump’s team are simply modeling their behavior on that of the boss. His demeaning treatment of Priebus and Attorney General Jeff Sessions signals that there are no boundaries in Trumpland, leading to the unprofessional actions of now-former communications director Anthony Scaramucci. Indeed, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders informed the public that the president “encourages” such behavior.

Kelly is walking into a White House that looks more like a cock fight than an episode of “The West Wing.” (See Mooch, you can use that word without being profane.) The White House culture will have to be shaken to its core. Kelly must be able to fire anyone at will, including to enforce a no-tolerance policy for behavior unbecoming a senior government official. Scaramucci’s departure Monday is a good start, but Kelly will have to keep a tight rein on a White House staff that is used to few boundaries. And if there is going to be an exception for Trump’s relatives, Kelly should get an explicit commitment that even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump report through him — no end arounds.

The most difficult discipline problem for Kelly, though, will not be the staff but Trump himself. Early signs are not auspicious. The day after appointing Kelly, Trump ranted on Twitter against Senate Republicans for failure to pass their horrific health-care bill, which would have denied care to millions of Americans and raised costs for millions more. I have no doubt that Kelly, unlike Priebus, can say no to power, but whether power will listen is another matter.

Read about Kelly’s two other major tasks at the WaPo link.

Trump spent the weekend trolling Senate Republicans for their failure to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but Politico reports that Trump’s tweets aren’t having much effect: Republicans ignore Trump’s Obamacare taunts.

Senate Republicans have no plans to revive their party-line attempts to repeal Obamacare this summer, despite President Donald Trump’s increasing frustration over the chamber’s failed attempts last week to gut the law.

“Until somebody shows us a way to get that elusive 50th vote, I think it’s over,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican. “Maybe lightning will strike and something will come together but I’m not holding my breath.” [….]

For one, they’re down one vote in the short term, with Sen. John McCain being treated for cancer in Arizona.

But as the collapse of the repeal effort in the Senate last week showed, even with McCain the GOP majority is so narrow that it may never be possible to pass major, partisan health care reform through the chamber. That increasingly appears to be the case despite White House efforts to promote a bill by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that would send federal health care funding to the states in the form of block grants.

Privately, Republican aides said there is essentially no chance McConnell will take another shot at repealing Obamacare soon. On Monday, there was discussion among Senate staffers of a “hard pivot to tax reform,” one Senate aide said.

JULY 31: Jared Kushner… arrives in the Capitol Visitor Center to participate in a lecture series with Hill interns on July 31, 2017. Congressional aide Katie Patru, appears at left. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Foreign Policy reports that Jared Kushner made “off the record remarks” to Congressional interns yesterday, and they quickly obtained notes from the meeting. Anyone who doesn’t believe Kusher is the leaker, please raise your hand.

Kushner to Interns: Trump Team Too Disorganized to Collude With Russia.

Donald Trump’s election team could not have colluded with Russia because they were barely talking to each other, according to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and top White House advisor.

“They thought we colluded, but we couldn’t even collude with our local offices,” Kushner told congressional interns during a private talk at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington on Monday afternoon….

A source provided a copy of written notes on Kushner’s talk and question-and-answer session to Foreign Policy.

For investigators attempting to determine whether Trump’s associates knowingly worked with Russia to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a defense claiming chaos and confusion might be the key difference between criminal behavior and incompetence.

As chaos reigns in the White House, Russia is continuing to threaten its neighbors. The New York Times: Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression.

WASHINGTON — Russia is preparing to send as many as 100,000 troops to the eastern edge of NATO territory at the end of the summer, one of the biggest steps yet in the military buildup undertaken by President Vladimir V. Putin and an exercise in intimidation that recalls the most ominous days of the Cold War.

The troops are conducting military maneuvers known as Zapad, Russian for “west,” in Belarus, the Baltic Sea, western Russia and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. The drills will feature a reconstituted armored force named for a storied Soviet military unit, the First Guards Tank Army. Its establishment represents the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union that so much offensive power has been concentrated in a single command.

The military exercise, planned for many months, is not a reaction to sweeping new economic sanctions on Russia that Congress passed last week. So far, Russia has retaliated against the sanctions by forcing the expulsion of several hundred employees in American diplomatic posts in the country.

But the move is part of a larger effort by Mr. Putin to shore up Russia’s military prowess, and comes against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive Russia. Beyond Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in support of the Trump campaign, which has seized attention in the United States, its military has in recent years deployed forces to Syria, seized Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine, rattled the Baltic States with snap exercises and buzzed NATO planes and ships.

Read more details at the link.

Finally, Talking Points Memo has an interesting post about Trump’s Russian mafia pal Felix Stater: Stinger Missiles And Shady Deals: Ex-Biz Partner To Trump Has A Tall Tale To Tell.

In December 2015, an Associated Press reporter asked Donald Trump why he had appointed Felix Sater, a man who’d been convicted for stock fraud, his senior advisor. “Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,” Trump told the AP. “I’m not that familiar with him.”

The feeling is not mutual.

“My last Moscow deal [for the Trump Organization] was in October of 2015,” Sater recalled. “It didn’t go through because obviously he became President.” Sater had told the New York Times that he was working on the deal that fall, but over the course of several conversations with TPM, he gave a slightly more detailed timeline. “Once the campaign was really going-going, it was obvious there were going to be no deals internationally,” Sater said. “We were still working on it, doing something with it, November-December.”

That deal was for “The Trump Tower, to develop in Moscow.” It was a similar proposition to the one Trump himself tried to broker with the Agalarovs, a family of vastly wealthy Russian oligarchs who brought Miss Universe 2013 to Moscow and were behind the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the President’s oldest son and an attorney said to work for the Russian government. Sater said he never worked with the Agalarovs on a Moscow deal for Trump, but did work with others who he declined to name. Those aren’t Sater’s connections, he said. “That’s not me. I don’t work with them and I’ve never worked with them.” When asked who he was working with, Sater chuckled. “A couple of people I’d like to continue working with, and that’s why I don’t want their names in the newspaper. People say, ‘I care about you and love you but why do I need my name in the press?’”

The Trump Organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment from TPM. But to understand Trump and the type of people his real estate empire did business, it’s worth trying to understand Sater, the Russian-American émigré whose connections span not only the worlds of Russian and Italian organized crime—which Sater said are in part a result of not being able to find legitimate work after two criminal convictions—but the FBI and, now, the presidency.

Read the whole thing at TPM.

What stories are you following this morning?